Evan Bayh, at 32, will become Indiana's first Democratic governor in 20 years, scoring an election victory touted as an "embarrassment" for the Republican presidential ticket in Dan Quayle's home state.
Bayh led a Democratic front Tuesday as his party extended its nationwide gubernatorial advantage by one, to 28 states, after four years of Republican gains. As recently as 1983, the Democrats held an edge of 35 to 15.Republicans limited their losses with some narrow victories. Stan Stephens seized the Democratic-held Montana governorship for his party for the first time since 1968, and scandal-plagued Gov. Edward DiPrete of Rhode Island salvaged a slim third-term victory over multimillionaire Bruce Sundlun.
GOP Gov. Arch Moore of West Virginia was ousted by millionaire Gaston Caperton, but a tense, seesaw race in Utah went to the Republicans as Gov. Norm Bangerter held off former Democratic Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson and independent Merrill Cook.
"I'm very, very happy," said Michele Davis, executive director of the Republican Governors' Association, noting her party had to defend eight of the 12 seats at stake and Democrats had boasted they could gain as many as four.
The brightest star appeared to be Bayh, whose father, Birch Bayh, was swept out of the Senate by Quayle eight years ago in the tide of the Reagan landslide.
This time national coattails were not enough. Despite a resounding 22-point victory in Indiana by the Bush-Quayle ticket, the young Bayh comfortably beat Republican Lt. Gov. John Mutz by more than 100,000 votes to succeed retiring GOP Gov. Robert Orr.
"It's a political embarrassment in Indiana, if not a disgrace, (for the GOP) not to carry the governor's race," said Charles Dolan, executive director of the Republican Governors' Association. "I think it's an indication how weak the ticket is."
Bayh, now Indiana's secretary of state, will become one of the youngest governors in the nation's history. Mutz, however, may not wind up a complete loser if Orr appoints him to fill Quayle's Senate seat.
In West Virginia, Caperton took a surprisingly easy victory over Moore, 65, who was first elected governor in 1968 and has served three terms since. The Democrat mimicked the expensive media blitz with which Jay Rockefeller defeated the GOP governor in 1976 and capitalized on the mining state's sagging economy to rack up 59 percent of the vote.
In Rhode Island, DiPrete claimed victory upon escaping with about 6,000 more votes than the wealthy Democrat Sundlun with 99 percent of precincts counted. Sundlun said he would await the counting of absentee ballots, and a possible recount, before conceding defeat.
DiPrete had been considered a sure bet for a third two-year term until he was hit by a series of scandals this year.
In Montana, former state Sen. Stephens gradually pulled away in his race against former Democratic Gov. Thomas Judge.
In other races:
-Republican Gov. James Martin of North Carolina won 56 percent of the vote to beat Democratic Lt. Gov. Robert Jordan for a second four-year term. He became the state's first GOP governor since Reconstruction to win re-election.
-Republican Gov. John Ashcroft of Missouri gained 64 percent of the vote to defeat Betty Hearnes, whose husband, Warren, was governor from 1965 to 1972, and he won a second four-year term.
-Republican Gov. Michael Castle of Delaware overcame retired lawyer Jacob Kreshtool, 71 percent to 29 percent, to earn a second four-year term.